Using An External Microphone With A Digital Audio Workstation
Audio Interface Cable
An example of an “interface cable” audio interface is the Behringer Mic 2 USBInterface Cable (link to check the price on Amazon).Behringer MIC2USB Interface CableBehringer is featured in the following My New Microphone articles: • Top Best DAW Control Surface Brands In The World • Top Best Eurorack Module Synth Brands In The World • Top Best MIDI Controller Brands In The World • Top Best Mixing Board/Console Brands For Home Studios • Top Best Synthesizer Brands In The WorldSimply connect the XLR of the interface cable to the microphone output. Then connect the USB of the interface cable to the computer.
Using An External Microphone With A Digital Audio Workstation
If you’re connecting a microphone to a computer to record audio, chances areyou’ll be working with a digital audio workstation.Digital audio workstations (DAWs) are software programs designed to record andmix audio.DAWs have the ability to select audio input devices independently from thecomputer’s main audio input device. This makes for flexible routing butsometimes leads to user confusion.For example, the operating system could be sourcing its audio input from theconnected audio interface while the DAW is sourcing from the computer’sinternal microphone.Selecting the audio input device in a DAW is similar to choosing the audioinput device of the computer. Once the proper drivers are installed, we canchoose a microphone or audio interface as our audio input.Let’s look at some common DAWs and their specific paths to audio inputrouting: * -> Setup * -> Playback Engine
Computers and iOS devices for recording
Nowadays, most recording setups are based around computers. At one time, itwas best to use a high-powered desktop computer for the job, but now,technology has advanced enough that even mobile devices like smartphones canget the job done. And laptops are commonly used as the central unit of a full-scale home studio.For those who want to create a mobile studio, iOS devices (iPads, iPhones, andthe iPod touch) are a great option. There is plenty of gear built specificallyfor these devices, which makes it easy to plug right in and get started. Learnmore with our extensive selection of iOS buying guides that focus on variousiOS users from DJs to guitarists.With an iPhone tucked in your pocket and a little extra gear, you can do someserious sound capture. Portable USB mics offer a big step up in sound qualityover your phone’s internal mic. And there’s a rapidly growing category ofsmart phone-friendly devices ideal for nailing everything from a fleetingguitar riff to a complete composition.When it comes to laptop or desktop computers, many models will work for yourrecording needs. You might be able to get started with the computer you’ve gotat home now. However, if that model is more than a few years old and it’sbeginning to seem a bit sluggish, it may be time to consider an upgrade.While the cost of a Mac computer is typically a bit higher than a Windows PCwith similar specifications, many musicians and recording engineers preferMacs for their reliability, ease of use, and build quality. These Applecomputers have a good reputation for handling recording gear well, withoutcreating any unwanted surprises. The vast array of software that has beendesigned to function seamlessly with the Mac operating system is a big plus.For an affordable option in a Mac computer, beginning recording artists mightconsider the Mac Mini—a small, desktop box that connects to an externalmonitor and delivers all the features musicians love about Macs.One further advantage of Macs is the fact they come with GarageBand, a basicbut easy-to-use recording application with which you can create surprisinglypolished music. Read on to learn more about the software to capture and edityour music.
Recording software and apps
Without audio software programs, computers don’t do a whole lot to help yourecord and mix music. The software that musicians and engineers use for theirmusic production is commonly referred to as a digital audio workstation (DAW)program, and there are a lot of different DAW options to choose from. Rangingfrom more basic programs such as Ableton Live 10 Intro to Pro Tools—the choiceof most professional studios—there is a DAW program that will match yourmusic, budget and skills. For a complete selection of program options, browsethe Musician’s Friend selection of DAW software.Most digital audio interfaces (explained in the next section) often includesome basic software that should be suitable for most beginners to create near-studio-quality recordings. Those looking for something a little morepowerful—with tools to help compose, edit, mix, and arrange music—mightconsider a software package such as Image Line’s FL Studio, an end-to-endmusic production program that’s both highly-regarded and affordable enough forbeginners.Check out our 6 Top DAWs Rundown for more great DAW choices.
Audio Interfaces for Recording
If you’re using a computer as the center of your recording studio, you need away to plug in the microphones and other gear you will be recording with. Thisis where the digital audio interface comes in. Beyond simply offering thetypes of connections you’ll need, the digital audio interface processes thesound you’re recording and converts it to digital data so your software canwork with it. The good news is that most interfaces with USB connectivity arecompatible with all the major DAW software titles that work with Mac andWindows computers‹but double-check to be certain.When looking at audio interfaces, it’s important to find one that has all theconnection types you’ll need. You’ll also need to make sure it’s compatiblewith the type of computer or device you’ll use to record with. So be sure tocheck the product descriptions for these details.Built to handle the needs of anyone who records vocals and instrumenttogether, the Focusrite Scarlett Solo (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface delivers asweet-sounding preamp and instrument input at a great price. The latestedition improves on the excellent sound of the original with a more even gainstructure that makes balancing your mixes easier. The instrument input hasbeen upgraded to handle the hottest pickups. Reduced latency means you’llperform more confidently and be able to run your favorite plug-ins in realtime.Read our Audio Interface Buying Guide to learn more about all the optionsavailable to match your recording needs and budget.
Headphones for recording
When you listen back to your recordings, you want the sound to be as accurateas possible so you know what you want to change in your mixes. A good pair ofstudio headphones is often the most cost-effective option for beginners.Closed-back headphones are essential when you’re recording vocal orinstrumental parts over existing music tracks. Their sealed design preventspre-recorded sound from leaking into the microphone as you monitor the backingtrack(s) while overdubbing new parts of the music.Studio headphones vary greatly in price. When you’re just starting out,there’s no need to break the bank. Plenty of good, accurate models areavailable within an affordable price range. The Audio-Technica ATH-M40x andSennheiser HD 280 PRO Studio Headphones are both highly rated products thatdeliver good accuracy at a beginner-friendly price.Browse the Musician’s Friend collection of studio headphones for more greatoptions.
1: Record with a large-diaphragm condenser microphone and audio interface
What you’ll need:A large-diaphragm condenser mic is a great way to capture the depth of aguitar’s tone. You can position the mic in a number of ways. Each positionaccents certain aspects of the instrument’s sound. You will have to experimentquite a bit to figure out exactly where to put the mic to get the sound youwant.Start by placing the mic about 3 feet away from the instrument and point itdirectly at the sound hole. At this distance you will capture the rich soundfrom the sound hole, and the attack of the strings. However, you may find thatyou get some ‘booming’ and so subtly adjust the mic so it points slightly moretoward the neck.Also remember the room plays a role in the sound you end up recording. So onceyou have become familiar with your new recording equipment, consider whetheryou need to think about acoustic treatment.
USB Audio Interfaces For Recording Guitar
Although the computer guitar cable is a simple and cheap solution, there are awhole range of dedicated devices which will offer massive improvements inquality. For the guitarist with a slightly bigger budget seeking a higherquality solution, there are a tremendous range of USB devices which have beenspecifically designed from the ground up to with your recording needs in mind.All of these eliminate the need to use your existing sound card for recordingand provide a dedicated external solution with all the hardware and softwareyou need to record your guitar. We are big fans of these dedicated devices,they are easy to use and install, have special inputs for guitar, usually comewith a great software package and will massively improve the quality of yourrecordings.If you need more information before reading on then we have a whole articlethat explains exactly what an audio interface is for complete beginners.If you are right at the budget end, and just looking for a simple connection,then you can buy guitar-USB linking cables which will easily and cheaplyenable you to connect your guitar (electric or electro-acoustic) directly toyour computer. You’ll then be able to record, add effects etc and you will getmuch better results than just going straight to the generic line-in on yourcomputer.However, many guitarists also want to be able to record vocals, so prefer tolook for a device which will successfully record both guitar and mic.Fortunately there are plenty of dedicated interfaces available especiallydesigned for guitar and microphone to USB recording and there is something tosuit every budget.All the USB audio interfaces that have guitar and mic input can be used torecord guitar alongside a dynamic vocal mic. (Look for devices which also haveon-board phantom power if you want to use a condenser mic too or instead – seebelow). These all-in-one devices offer great value because you need verylittle additional equipment to get started – just the device, a guitar cable,a decent microphone and then a pair of headphones or powered speakers andyou’re away. The idea is they are all the computer hardware a guitarist needsto record guitar and vocals and most come with software too.If you want to build a small guitar recording studio around a studio condensermic, you’ll need to spend a bit more and be sure to purchase a device withphantom power. The condenser mic will also cost more than a dynamic mic. Forstudio recording, if you can stretch your budget this far you will get a goodresult .Don’t forget, these USB Audio interfaces bypass your built-in sound card togive a great result, but you will need to listen to them through headphones orpowered speakers (monitors) , as the sound will no longer come out of yourexisting computer speakers. Newbies often plug them in, start recording, thencontact us because they can’t hear anything! The added benefit of buying oneof these USB audio interfaces for recording your guitar and/or vocals is youcan also set it up as your default audio output device (or sound card) so itgives your whole audio set-up on your computer a complete upgrade. Great forYouTube video and general music playback
Using a Microphone to Record Your Guitar
Another option is to use a microphone to record the output of your amp (in thecase of electric guitarists), or your acoustic guitar. A dynamic microphone isusually the first choice if you want to record your amp. Although choice ofmic does depend on the sound you want to get. For real ease, choose a USB micthen you don’t have to worry about any other equipment.Our pick is the Audio-Technica AT2020USB+. The Audio-Technica ATR2100-USBCardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone is also particularly good choice becauseyou can use it either as a USB or a standard mic with XLR output, and you canmonitor what you’re doing with the headphones it comes with.Any of the devices we have already looked at that take a microphone as wellwill be just as good for this recording scenario. If you want to record youracoustic guitar then you should buy a condenser mic and an audio interfacewith phantom power. Or consider a USB condenser mic such as the ever popularand newly improved Samson C01U Pro Studio Condenser USB Microphone.More information about recording using a microphone can be found in our sisterarticle on connecting a microphone to your computer.
Download Recording Software
The next step to recording your music piece is to go for a digital audioworkstation (DAW). It is a software that can edit, record and produce audiofiles. The marketplace and online resources are abuzz with recording software,each claiming to be better than the other.You should initially try to master the basics and then build up & upgradelater. Ableton Live Lite or Audacity are two free DAWs which assists greatlyin the process of recording your instruments.With your instrument and DAW ready to go, the next step is to connect and syncthe device with your computer using any of the three methods i.e. via theaudio interface; USB audio connection or MIDI recording.
1. Recording Keyboards using your USB Port (Audio Connection)
If your keyboard supports it, this is a great option. Recording keyboards withthe help of USB port connectivity is an easy process. Depending on the model,your keyboard might have a USB port that can easily sync with your computer.The way to do it is to have the B-end of the cable plugged into the keyboardwhile plugging the A-end of the cable into the computer’s USB port. You willthen have to install all the necessary drivers on your computer. This willsync your keyboard to the computer, allowing you to record music smoothly.Note: Some keyboards have USB outputs that do not actually transmit audioinformation. In this case, the above will not work for you. They may onlysupport MIDI connectivity, which we will talk about in option 3 of thisarticle.
2. Recording Keyboards using an Audio Interface
An audio interface is an external piece of hardware that can easily connectwith your keyboards to record the sounds. The audio interface comes with XLRinputs and/or instrument cable inputs where you can connect your instrumentand output jack connections allow for playback along with voice level monitorsand gain controls to set the right level of signals.The audio interface is the most integral part of home studio recording. Onceyou get the setup right then syncing the hardware with the computer andrecording process is a piece of cake.A great audio interface is the Focusrite Scarlet 2i2.